It has been a long four months since Kansas State men’s basketball opened the 2017-18 regular season. Nevertheless, March has begun, so let the madness begin. On Saturday, the Wildcats will host the Baylor Bears in Bramlage Coliseum on Senior Day.
K-State brings a 20-10 overall record and a Big 12 record of 9-8 into the game, while Baylor is sitting at 18-12 overall and 8-9 in the conference.
The Wildcats do have a one-game lead over Baylor, but the Bears have easily been the better team as of late.
Since it suffered a 21-point dismantling at the hands of the University of Florida in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Jan. 27, Baylor has gone 6-3, including upsets of Kansas and Texas Tech.
Early in the season it seemed that they would finish in one of the bottom three spots of the conference, but they have snuck their way into the NCAA Tournament conversation.
Over the last couple of weeks, Baylor has bounced around on the bubble, but ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi currently has the Bears listed as an 11-seed.
As for the Wildcats, they are clinging on to hopes of making an appearance in the big dance.
They have made things harder for themselves in the last week by losing their last two games to the University of Oklahoma and TCU, respectively.
Throughout the season, the Wildcats have benefitted from balanced scoring, but in the recent losses, that is something that has lacked.
Juniors Dean Wade and Barry Brown have scored in double figures each of the past two games. Sophomore Xavier Sneed registered 12 points against OU, but only had two against TCU.
Despite those crucial losses, Lunardi currently has K-State sketched in as a 10-seed. He is projecting K-State to face Creighton, where former Wildcat Marcus Foster currently plays.
As of Thursday at 7 p.m., Lunardi projects eight Big 12 teams to be in the tournament, excluding Oklahoma State and Iowa State.
The last time that the Wildcats and Bears faced off was on Jan. 22 in Waco, Texas. K-State came out on top 90-83 after warding off a Baylor comeback.
After that win, K-State had a 15-5 record and has gone just 5-5 since through a rough stretch of the season.
Brown led the Wildcats that night with 34 points, adding five assists.
Three other Wildcats scored in double figures, including 24 points from Wade.
Redshirt freshman guard Cartier Diarra had a nice game with 10 points and six assists. Diarra’s production has dipped since the return of junior Kamau Stokes, so another good outing for him against the Bears would be encouraging.
The Bears had six players score in double figures and were led by senior guard Manu Lecomte, who had 18 points and six assists.
It is hard to say if a win on Saturday would seal K-State’s spot in the NCAA Tournament, but it would do a lot to get them there. It would also give them some much-needed momentum as they headed into the Big 12 Tournament next week.
Tip-off for the Wildcats and Bears is set for 1 p.m. Saturday. The game will air on ESPN and on the K-State Sports Radio Network.